Jamaican immigrants file lawsuit against western Oklahoma couple alleging human trafficking

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In June, three Jamaican immigrants filed a lawsuit against a western Oklahoma couple alleging human trafficking.

The lawsuit alleges that husband and wife Walter Schumacher and Carolyn Schumacher of Clinton, about 80 miles west of Oklahoma City, lured the workers with promises of good wages and free or low-cost housing, but instead used them as cheap labour and charged them high costs for housing.

The Jamaicans went to the US under student work visas between 2008 and 2012.

An attorney for the Schumachers did not return a phone call seeking comment, but previously denied the allegations and described the couple as "heartsick."

The lawsuit follows a similar action filed in 2017 by three Filipino immigrants who entered the US on temporary work visas in 2012.

Wile there have been previous civil lawsuits over the treatment of immigrants in the United States on work visas, immigration attorney Kent Felty of Denver said they are and will continue to be rare, partly because of the language barrier immigrants face, their unfamiliarity with U.S. law, and the amount of time it would take an attorney to win what might be a small judgement.

"You can say it's not about the money, but it's about them money ... you can't do it as a private attorney, it's all about if you're going to get paid, " said Felty, who is not involved in the lawsuits.

"Half the country would give them a million dollars on a thousand dollar case, and half the country would like to see them deported," said Felty, who successfully sued the John Pickle Company in Tulsa and Falcon Steel Structures, Inc., in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over claims similar to the allegations against the Schumachers.

Felty said none of the $1.3 million judgement in the Pickle case was paid while the Falcon case was settled for an undisclosed sum.

The plaintiffs in the current cases are represented by the nonprofit Equal Justice Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom law firm, which provides pro bono services.